a man sitting on top of a mountain looking at the mountains.

Anxiety Exercises: 15 Things You Can Do to Lower Anxiety

Amber Murphy

When you feel anxious about a situation or face a trigger unexpectedly, how do you react? Do you feel yourself spiraling out of control, or can you take appropriate action? There are anxiety exercises that we can add to our arsenal against the disorder. Some will help us in the moment of an attack. Others will help us take a calm break from a situation. Then there are those that we can turn into regular habits for long-term relief. 

Anxiety exercises when you need immediate relief

It is easy to suddenly find yourself in the middle of an anxious situation, either at work or out in public. Other times, it can feel so overwhelming that it can become a panic attack. If you don’t know how to stop a panic attack or you feel completely overwhelmed, there are some tricks you can try for immediate relief. 

1. Breathe

Man leaning back taking a deep breath in

You might get frustrated when people tell you to “just breathe.” You are trying your best, but your breaths and heart rate are too high. But, if you concentrate on the right breathing rate, you can see improvements.

One of the best anxiety exercises is to inhale deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7, and then exhale for 8. This rhythm helps to get your breathing under control and steadies your heart rate. There is also a benefit in counting out the seconds. When your mind is concentrated on getting that rhythm right, it can’t focus on the cause of the anxiety.

Once you have your breathing under control and a clearer mind, you can look at your situation from a more rational perspective. Is the trigger as bad as you first thought, and what can you do to improve your situation. Do you carry on or walk away?

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2. Grounding exercises

Another of these helpful anxiety exercises for immediate anxiety relief is to ground yourself in the present moment. Anxiety can creep up on us when we feel disconnected from our current situation or that everything is beyond our control. You can choose to stop what you are doing, find a quiet place to sit, and then ground yourself.  Grounding yourself, even for a minute, can help you find peace of mind.

Take a moment to consider the following:

  • 1 thing that you can taste
  • 2 things that you can smell
  • 3 things that you can hear
  • 4 things that you can feel
  • 5 things that you can see

Taste might not be so simple if you haven’t anything to eat. But it could be the lingering taste of the coffee you have been drinking or the fresh mint of gum. Smells can come from the stores nearby, flowers, or even your own perfume or the scent of your clothes. Connect to the pleasant sounds around to connect to the world beyond any stressful triggers. Feel the ground beneath your feet or the breeze on your skin. Then look at the beautiful details in front of you.

Again, this is all about providing a new perspective and a sense of calm in a difficult situation. You might see that there is no reason to remain anxious if there is no immediate danger. You can enjoy what is in front of you for a moment. Then you can decide whether to continue with what you were doing or to leave and try other anxiety exercises. 

Guided breathing practice

Give yourself a breather with our guided breathing meditation that will help you relax.

Anxiety exercises when you need to walk away

Man walking down an empty road with his hoodie on

Walking away from a stressful situation and an anxiety trigger is perfectly fine. It is helpful to go and clear your head for a little while and focus on something else. This is where you can practice a little self-care and use calming tools to help you feel better. 

The tools that you use are entirely up to you. There is no wrong answer if you find something that works for you. Common ways to get rid of anxiety include the following anxiety exercises.

3. Taking a walk

A walk is a great way to physically remove yourself from a situation and focus on something else. You don’t have to go far. 10 minutes around the neighborhood or local park can help. To change things up, try some mindful walking.

4. Spending time in nature

Green spaces have a calming effect on us so we should make the most of them. Sit beneath a tree or on the lawn in your garden. Enjoy the flowers and watch the birds. You don’t need to go far to spend time in nature. Even if you live in the city, a local park is good enough. Just get some fresh air to get our of your head.

5. Heading to a cozy corner with a good book

Woman sitting in chair reading a book

If you’re not an outdoors person, maybe you have a safe corner of your home to retreat to. Take a book and lose yourself in another world for a little while. If you need some reading suggestions, try a meditation book.

6. Spending time with pets

Your pet cat or dog can be a brilliant aid. Stroking their fur can be enough to calm us and make us happier again. If you don’t have one of your own, visit a friend to play with theirs.

7. Chatting with friends

You can also go to a friend’s house for their company and support. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, call them, or use Skype.

8. Doing something creative

Two men working on a construction project in their home

Those that are artistic can relieve their anxiety by focusing on some art or craft anxiety exercises. Even those with limited imagination can find anxiety relief in coloring books. Creating something is another way to be creative. Whether it’s starting a business or a DIY project, give your anxiety a creative outlet.

9. Drinking herbal tea

There are so many different flavors and styles of herbal tea that you are sure to find one that is soothing. Add this to any of the exercises here for additional relief.

10. Playing video games

If you are an avid gamer, you may find relief in the missions and worlds of the game you are playing. Take a break here and let the anxiety fade. If you’re unsure what to play, look at anxiety relief games that can help you unwind instead of an intense shoot em up.

11. Sinking into a warm bath

Woman sitting in bath

Baths can be both physically and mentally cleansing. You can spend as long as you want in there in the scented bubbles away from your triggers. Maybe take a book and tea with you to double up on these anxiety exercises.

12. Write it out

If you want to express your anxiety but don’t want to share it with anyone, you can write it out. Put it all on paper to process how you are feeling. Writing can be a cathartic activity. Don’t overthink it, just let the word flow out. Nobody needs to see what you write so allow yourself to be honest.

Anxiety exercises to help in the long run

Dealing with anxiety doesn’t just mean handling the feelings and any anxiety attacks as they happen. Where possible, it helps to try and reduce the risks of attacks, your exposure to triggers, and the way you respond. There are tools you can use for long-term improvements.

13. Keep a journal

Journal with pen laying on a stone bench outdoors

If you are one of those people like likes to write out their problems and thoughts, this should come easy. You can keep track of everything that you are struggling with and your experiences with anxiety. This means some honesty about the triggers and the way they made you feel. Look for the patterns and reasons behind your reactions. Is it a rational response or an overblown reaction to something that is actually manageable? If you can accept the irrational nature of the anxiety, this might help when faced with those triggers again.

Your journal can also be a way of tracking all the positive actions you take to deal with the triggers and to minimize their impact in the future. Write down what you did for self-care and how it felt. Did you do something different that made it more effective? Did you take preventative action through anxiety exercises in some way to help change your habits?

You can also keep a mindfulness journal to help you live more mindfully and less in your head, the source of most stress.

The other benefit of a physical journal is that it is more than just an outlet for emotion and thoughts. You can go back and look at what you have achieved and the positive factors in your life. You can prove to yourself that you can get your anxiety under control. You did it before and can retake those same steps.

14. Build better habits in your mental and physical health care

The impact of anxiety on your day-to-day life can decrease if we take better care of ourselves. This includes the following anxiety exercises:

  • Exercising more
  • Improving our diet
  • Limiting exposure to substances like caffeine and alcohol
  • Improving our sleep schedule
  • Practicing mindfulness during the day

This isn’t easy if you’re starting from scratch. Take your time with small steps in the right direction. Switching to decaf coffee in the evening could be a good start for improved sleep. A regular bedtime can get you in a more comfortable rhythm each day and refresh you for the challenges ahead.

15. Meditation

Woman sitting on couch listening to guided meditation on her phone

Meditation is a way to maintain good mental health but also provide people a tool to relieve anxiety when they need it most.

Download a guided meditation app for anxiety such as Declutter The Mind or try one of our guided meditations for anxiety. Just 10 minutes of meditation is enough to provide some calm and grounding before it becomes necessary.

Be proactive and take control with a range of anxiety exercises

One of the worst feelings when suffering from anxiety is the idea that you have no control over what happens. But, there are lots of ways that you can take control and limit the effects of the disorder. Any of these anxiety exercises can help. Take the time to control your thoughts and breathing when anxiety creeps up on you to ground yourself and stay calm. Then take a break away from the situation with a self-care activity of your design. Finally, gain greater control with changes to your health care plan and daily habits.

It may take some time and practice to see the results from these anxiety exercises. Yet, regular effort and a determination to beat anxiety will help you win this.

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